Monday, July 27, 2009
The Incomparable Hildegarde
Our latest Mystery Guest was indeed the enigmatic Hildegarde Knef (alternately known as Hildegarde Neff). Although she labored in the shadow of her obvious predecessor and contemporary, Marlene Dietrich, Knef became something of an institution in her own right in her native Germany. Success in America proved more elusive, although she made a splash on Broadway in Silk Stockings, Cole Porter's musical adaptation of the Garbo film comedy Ninotchka. Knef's Hollywood swan song was in Billy Wilder's campy return to Sunset Boulevard territory, Fedora (1978), which found her playing a reclusive screen queen opposite an extremely aged William Holden, many years and bottles beyond Joe Gillis. If anything, Knef may be better known and better loved for her late-career transition to smoky chanteuse in the 1960's; her throaty, expressive voice was equally at home with American jazz standards as it was with Knef's self-penned material; Ella Fitzgerald called her the "best singer without a voice," which is as apt a description as any.
The first visitor to correctly guess Ms. Knef was the equally enigmatic Labuanbajo, who gets to make a complete tour (encompassing the east, west, north and south) of all of you. Be prepared.